Are you Meerkatting? If the question makes no sense, you have not heard of what's being hailed as social media's Next Big Thing: The Meerkat app allows people to stream live video to their Twitter accounts. It first emerged as a big hit at the South by Southwest Festival, and has logged more than 100,000 downloads (and counting, quickly) in two weeks, reports Vogue. At Politico, media writer Dylan Byers has proclaimed it the "social media tool of the 2016 presidential election." Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, for instance, already have used it to stream video of their events to followers, reports Yahoo. Rival apps that do the same exist—notably Periscope, which was recently acquired by Twitter—but Meerkat is the one that's caught fire for now. (The app "feels a bit unfinished" and more like a work in progress, says a review in PCMag, which gives it three out of five stars.)
"Think about it this way: Up until about two weeks ago, broadcasting an event live required a large and quite expensive satellite truck, a ton of expensive cables and expensive satellite time," writes Dan Pfeiffer, a former Obama aide, at Medium. "Now you can do it with your phone." Yes, this kind of technology existed before, but "the difference between Meerkat and, say, YouTube or Livestream or FaceTime or Chatroulette, is that Meerkat merges all those elements—real-time video, mass social participation—into one immediate, participatory dervish," writes Caitlin Dewey at the Washington Post. "It’s arguably the closest we’ve gotten to replicating the experience of physically being in another place, with other people … when you’re actually sitting at home in front of your computer."